Sugata Mitra

picture.php?wk=ecls&pk=sugata.mitra Sugata Mitra is a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University. One of his great passions is how you get teachers to kids who have little access. In a recently publicised series of experiments involving the placement of computers in holes in walls in India, Cambodia and Africa, Sugata Mitra (2006, 2003)1 has demonstrated that groups of children can learn to use a computer and the Internet to answer a broad range of questions. Mirroring what happens when children work together to play various video and online games (see for example Gee 2003, 2005)2, Mitra has documented evidence of peer tutoring, inquiry learning and a capacity to talk about the pedagogy used to help their peers. He argues that in terms of formal curriculum, only one portion of any given curriculum actually requires a teacher and that his model illustrates the key role of peer teaching and modest expertise to support the learning of novices. Importantly, the learning that he observed taking place was driven by questions. Not the kinds of questions asked in normal classrooms where the knowledge authority knows the answers but questions that lead to better questions in the pursuit of a goal (Thomas and Brown 2011)3. While his work is referenced to mainstream schooling, in terms of a disruptive innovation, his model taps a huge number of non-users of formal schooling.

Mitra has made a couple of presentations to TED conferences. They are well worth a view.

To supply the missing third part of support that his model suggests, he has enlisted large numbers of volunteer mentor/tutors, his so-called ‘granny cloud’ which provide an hour a week to support to each self-organising cluster of students via Skype.